Japan, China move to take ties forward

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre left) shakes hands with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam at the military airport in Seongnam, South Korea, on Nov 2 2015.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (centre left) shakes hands with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam at the military airport in Seongnam, South Korea, on Nov 2 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL • Japan and China have agreed to restart mutual visits of their foreign ministers and hold a bilateral high-level economic dialogue early next year, a Japanese senior government spokesman said, as ties between Asia's two biggest economies warm.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at their meeting in Seoul on Sunday also agreed that their countries would work towards an early implementation of communication mechanisms between their military forces, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

"At the outset of the meeting, they agreed that ties between Japan and China are on a recovery trend, but that the momentum should be strengthened further," he said.

Sino-Japanese relations, haunted by the legacy of Japan's World War II aggression and conflicting claims over islets in the East China Sea islets, have thawed a little since Mr Abe met President Xi Jinping twice from last November.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement cited Mr Li as telling Mr Abe that while relations were getting back on track, the road ahead remained challenging.

RELATIONS ON THE MEND

At the outset of the meeting, they agreed that ties between Japan and China are on a recovery trend, but that the momentum should be strengthened further.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KOICHI HAGIUDA, on the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang

"I hope the Japanese side practises a positive China policy and meets China halfway to promote the continued stable development of bilateral ties," the statement paraphrased the Premier as saying.

China hopes Japan can genuinely reflect on its history and understand how important the issue is to the feelings of Chinese people, he said.

"China will unswervingly stick to the path of peaceful development and hopes that Japan continues to go down the same path and that (Japan) does more to benefit regional peace and security on matters of the military and security and respects the concerns of its Asia neighbours," he added.

In an additional step to ease bilateral tension, the two leaders agreed that Beijing and Tokyo will work to restart talks on a contentious issue of oil-and-gas field development in the East China Sea, Mr Hagiuda said.

China said in July that it had every right to drill in the East China Sea close to waters disputed with Japan, adding that it did not recognise a "unilateral" Japanese median line setting out a boundary between the two in the waters.

The comment came after Japan called on China to halt construction of oil-and-gas exploration platforms close to waters claimed by both nations, concerned that Chinese drills could tap reservoirs that extend into Japanese territory.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'Japan, China move to take ties forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe